Black particles charcoal

This ingredient is more often associated with backyard barbeques than cosmetics, but it’s garnered a lot of attention in recent years. It’s not foreign to us though- it’s been used as a poison remedy for years! In Asia, especially Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan, bamboo charcoal has been a popular filtration medium for centuries. Recently though, especially since 2014, it’s been on the rise in the cosmetic and skin care world. The claims by activated charcoal range from being an exfoliator to acne treatment, but, does it live up to the hype?

In short: it depends.

It has the potential to be one of the most natural and effective exfoliates, acne fighters, black head busters, pore reducers out there. But, it depends on its origin and how it’s applied.

What is activated charcoal?

Don’t reach into your grill’s ash tray and attempt to make a mask out of it. It’s not quite the same thing…

WARNING! I’m about to get sciencey on you. Bamboo charcoal has a 600:1 surface to weight ratio. Meaning, 1 gram of Bamboo Charcoal powder can cover 600 square meters (because the carbon molecule is shaped like a small basketball). After the bamboo is harvested, it is “carbonized” (and oxygen is added) at extremely hot temperatures to increase its surface area to weight ratio to 1,200:1.


In other words, the oxygen helps creates a super porous surface, increasing its ability to absorb over a thousand times its own weight! The result is called activated bamboo charcoal.

So, then, what can it DO?

Charcoal absorbs impurities (sebum or oil, dead skin, makeup, pollutants…) and lifts them from your skin. That means less breakouts and redness- GREAT news for acne sufferers!

When your pores are cleared, it allows them to produce less oil and tighten. This relieves irritation and inflammation- key for preventing premature aging!

Not all charcoal is created equal though. Charcoal from petroleum can have adverse effects. Charcoal from bamboo, on the other hand, offers a plethora of other benefits!

  • Bamboo is antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and antimicrobial (Materials Chemistry and Physics, Volume 113, Issue 1, 15 January 2009, Pages 474–479)
  • Charcoal releases many beneficial minerals, such as calcium, potassium and magnesium for your skin to absorb
  • Bamboo charcoal has been measured to radiate 93% of far-infrared rays. Far-infrared rays warm your body temperature to promote blood circulation, speed up the metabolism, and encourage cell regeneration
  • Natural exfoliate that leaves NO residue

Bamboo has the added benefit of being a fast growing and renewable resource for products. Compared to timber forests in the same growing conditions, bamboo can yield up to 25 TIMES more usable material than timber, reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere 4 times more, and release 35% more oxygen!

If you’re concerned about sustainability, bamboo is an easy choice.


Skip the soap. Opt for a mask.

Dermatologist Dr. Susan Mayou explains: ‘Charcoal is justifiably recognized for its ability to absorb oils and bacteria and could be beneficial for the skin. Its effectiveness would, however, depend on its concentration and length of contact with the skin.’ (

Meaning: cleansers and soaps would have limited benefit in comparison to wearing it as a mask. Masks provide time for it to do its job of absorbing impurities and exfoliating.mask

Take caution if you choose to handle it in powder form. While it’s beneficial to the digestive tract, it may do harm to the lungs. Further health studies needs to be done before we can truly know for sure.

BEWARE! There is a also a growing trend of using activated charcoal in toothpaste. While it’s natural exfoliating ability is great for skin, it can be too abrasive for tooth enamel! Skin cells regenerate, enamel does not!

Minneapolis-based dentist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association Dr. Kim Harms, DDS says:

“There’s no evidence at all that activated charcoal does any good for your teeth,” says Dr. Harms. She worries about the potential damage the grainy substance can do to your teeth and gums. “Like any abrasive, we’re worried about the effects on the gums and enamel on the teeth. We don’t know about the safety and effectiveness of it,” she says.

And according to Dr. Wolff, attempts to use charcoal in toothpaste haven’t been met with tremendous success. Skip your teeth. Stick to using charcoal for your skin.

Where to get your hands on it:

Younique’s Detoxifying Mask: This mask includes bamboo activated charcoal, combined with anti-aging and moisturizing  ingredients to boost the benefit to your skin. Learn More or Purchase

mask-stockArticle by Elizabeth Mills –About

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